Denver trains cabbies, others in hospitality
DENVER, Colorado In a back room of Wynkoop Brewing Co., a popular downtown pub, two dozen restaurant and hotel employees rushed to energetically greet as many strangers as they could in 45 seconds.Shouting over the din, hospitality trainer Josh Davies called them back to their seats to share their favorite things about Denver, much as they might tell visitors during the Democratic National Convention that begins Aug. 25.Leading up to the convention, the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau has trained more than 2,500 taxi drivers, front-desk hotel employees, restaurant workers and airport employees to “Go the EXTRA Mile” in hospitality.In one-hour sessions, they learn the “EXTRA” steps to take with visitors:Energetically greet everyoneeXplain what makes Denver greatTake time to listenReduce guesswork and give tips the locals knowAsk if there is anything else they need.”It’s the little things that make a big difference,” said Davies, loaned to the bureau’s training program by Sage Hospitality Resources.The bureau says a record 12.2 million visitors stayed overnight in Denver last year and spent $2.9 billion. The city is eager to have them return, so the bureau last year formed a long-term program to get guests to view Denver as the friendliest U.S. city.The DNC has given the program more urgency. As many as 6,000 convention volunteers will take the “EXTRA Mile” program Saturday in the Colorado Convention Center.At the Wynkoop, Davies counseled trainees to make eye contact and watch their body language as they greet people.”A lot of these things are ‘duh,’ but sometimes we get busy,” Davies said.Participants, some still in work uniforms, shared what they loved about Denver. “Three hundred days of sunshine a year,” one man said. “You can golf at Christmas and ski in May or June.”Trainees then wrote down what they can do personally to improve hospitality and have those messages mailed to them later as a reminder.Emily Thatcher, who works the front desk at The Curtis hotel, wrote that she would smile more. “This is my first job ever,” she said. “I’m really excited for the convention.”Students also get wallet-size cards with the “EXTRA” mantra, a guide to Denver, fact sheets for the DNC and a list of Denver trivia.Yellow Cab driver Dennis Dee, 49, attended a session after getting an alert about it on his cab computer screen.”To go the extra mile is just to do more than the customer expects of you,” said Dee, who insists on opening cab doors for his passengers.”If you look around, customer service everywhere is faltering,” said Jayne Buck, the bureau’s vice president of tourism. “Taking flights used to be glamorous. Now you are challenged to get to the end. If you have good service at a meal, a good taxi ride, it can turn your spirit around.”Buck, who has been in Denver for nine years, implemented a similar hospitality program when she worked for the visitors bureau in St. Paul, Minn., home of the Republican National Convention.So far, the bureau has spent about $50,000 on training, with businesses and city attractions donating space for sessions or prizes for attendees.Taxi driver Lynn Sharer, 60, of suburban Littleton said it’s worth treating visitors well.”They pay our salaries,” Sharer said. “If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have a job.”
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